Colin Brazier: The odds have shifted decisively in favour of Chinese culpability for Covid

'Six months ago the US was happy to go along with the Chinese fiction that Covid emerged spontaneously from an animal market. But in May that changed,' says Colin Brazier

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If Covid leaked from a lab in Wuhan, and this week the odds have shifted decisively in favour of Chinese culpability, how do we respond? Can the world really heave a collective sigh, mutter a global prayer for the 4.4 million people killed by the coronavirus, and walk on by?

Before we begin, let’s say it again. The Chinese people are not the Chinese Communist Party. The former are victims of the latter’s wicked totalitarianism. But so, increasingly it seems, are we.

Think of how covid has changed YOUR life, perhaps taken the lives of loved ones. Ruined livelihoods, business-owners driven to the brink of despair. What should we do, how should we expect our government to respond, to the emerging reality that covid was not some act of God, or product of random evolutionary selection. But the bitter fruit of human error. A laboratory leak which we could perhaps forgive, followed by a communist party cover-up which we shouldn’t.

In the face of Beijing’s mendacity, the only power on earth capable of getting to the bottom of what happened in Wuhan is America. Six months ago the US was happy to go along with the Chinese fiction that covid emerged spontaneously from an animal market. But in May that changed. President Biden said it might have been a laboratory accident after all, and put his intelligence agencies on the case.

The inquiry is due to conclude next month. But the Republicans have just jumped the gun. And the gun is smoking.

They’ve presented new intelligence evidence about what was happening at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the summer of 2019, many months before we had a clue of what horrors were about to unfold.

In particular an emergency request by the Institute for a £1m overhaul of a hazardous waste treatment system at the Wuhan lab. This was an air disinfection system that was virtually brand new…when it was replaced. Within weeks there appeared to be panic in Wuhan. The virus database was taken offline – in the middle of the night. There was a request for another million pounds, this time for extra security.

It was the beginning, said Mike McCaul, the top Republican on Washington’s Foreign Affairs Committee, of the “greatest cover up of all time”.

That being true, I return to my original question. What do WE do? In all likelihood, there will demands for reparations. A bill for compensation the likes of which the world has never seen before. It will be unpaid. China won’t permit a comprehensive assessment of what happened in Wuhan and can’t accept responsibility – at least not while the Communist Party is in charge. So that leaves sanctions.

China accounts for 15 per cent of global trade. In the UK, China – without much fanfare – just overtook Germany as the country we import most from. Could we afford sanctions? Of course not.

We want to put Covid economically behind us, not use it as the trigger for a new global recession. Which leaves two options. First, we as individuals boycott Chinese goods. You resist the temptations of a Huawei handset. Second, our government carries on doing what it’s been doing for the last year or so, unwinding David Cameron’s legacy of sucking-up to Xi Jingping, whether that’s in 5G or nuclear technology.

Can we prove beyond reasonable doubt that you had to wear a face-mask today because someone cocked-up this time two summers ago on a science campus 5000 miles away? Maybe not. But on the balance of probabilities, the jury is no longer out.

The circumstantial evidence points strongly towards a determined Chinese attempt to obfuscate and when people have forcefully demanded answers, like the Australian government, to bully. The American Republicans have made up their minds. In time our government may too. But remember we, as individuals have the right to register our outrage as well.

The next time you shop online, scroll down the page and see where your new kettle, laptop, or garden furniture is coming from. If it’s from China, let your finger hover over the buy button as YOU wonder why 130,000 of your fellow Britons are no longer here today. That’s tonight’s Viewpoint.